Friday, May 21, 2010

Menu Planning

I will be the first to acknowledge that I'm not a great photographer, but hopefully you can tell what is going on in the picture above.

This is my "control station," for our family's menu planning. I used electrician's tape to divide up the wipe-board into different sections: the weekly menu, a grocery shopping list, and a place for the kids to keep track of the chore points they've earned for the day. (They get 10 minutes of computer time for every job mark they have earned, or for every hour of study they've completed on a particular day.)

And, though I didn't have anything marked there on the day this picture was taken, in the upper right-hand corner, I've started keeping track of all the things I should do and eat per day during my pregnancy so that I can remember what I've done and what I haven't done. (Pregnancy brain-- 'member?) Included are tasks like: drink water, take multivitamins and supplements, drink pregnancy tea, exercise, eat two eggs daily, eat green leafy veggies daily, etc..

So this morning, I just felt a huge urge to get my menu all planned out for these next few weeks, in preparation for this last month of pregnancy, the forth-coming birth, and beyond. It's not easy to plan somethings that far out, but I think it will be a blessing to my husband and kids who are doing (and will be doing more of!) a lot of the cooking.

I also don't really enjoy grocery shopping, not only because it's a MEGA-effort at my house, but because I want to get it done now, before my belly starts to grow larger, and my hips even sorer.

Today a friend reminded me about simplifying the menu-planning process by assigning types of food to different nights. I used to plan this way, and I'm not sure why I stopped, so I'm grateful for her suggestion! (Hi, Donna!) She gives it more variety by alternating weeks, but I decided to generalize a bit more and do the same every week.

Here's the schedule I came up with:

  • Monday = Mexican
  • Tuesday = Pork or Chicken
  • Wednesday = Crock Pot (This is our busy night of everyone coming and going.)
  • Thursday = Rice or Bread
  • Friday = Pasta
  • Saturday = Casserole or Soup
  • Sunday = SIMPLE
I live in the HOT desert, so I've also planned meals that don't require the use of my oven. My stovetop and crockpot become our best friends during the hot months!

Here are some examples of dinners I've scheduled that DON'T require the oven:

  • Spaghetti and other pasta dishes and sauces
  • Soups and chili
  • Crock Pot Casseroles & Roasts
  • Chicken Curry with rice
  • Swedish Meatballs
  • Fried Chicken
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Nachos & Tacos
  • Grilled Sandwiches
  • Taco, Chef, or Cobb Salad
There's more, but I was amazed to discover that there's lots of great meals for the summer that don't require the heat of our oven.

Anther thing that has sometimes been difficult to plan is simple lunches. Again, I've decided that repetition is not a bad thing, so that's what I've decided to use in my lunch AND breakfast plans. I've tried to leave a few days open for variety, but I think it's better to plan and then tweak things, than to not plan at all. Some variety can easily be added to breakfasts and lunches with the addition of different veggies and fruits.

Here are some ideas for lunches:

  • Grilled sandwiches (cheese or tuna)
  • Good ole' PB&J's
  • Griddle-cooked bean & cheese or pizza crisps
  • Ham Sandwiches
  • Chicken salad sandwiches
  • Egg salad sandwiches
  • Pigs in Blankets/Fancy Hot Dogs
As for breakfasts, they can be simple or complex, but they certainly don't need to be cereal every day! Cereal is not only very expensive (especially when our crowd goes through 4-5 boxes and more than a gallon of milk in ONE breakfast!), it's loaded with sugar, and never keeps tummies filled until lunch.

Here are some of the breakfasts we frequently eat:

  • Egg Casseroles with a side of fruit
  • Pancakes, Waffles or French Toast
  • Smoothies with toast
  • Oatmeal or Cracked Wheat Hot Cereal
  • Grits and Scrambled Eggs (It's a Southern thing...)
  • Muffins with fruit
  • Breakfast Casseroles and "Cakes"
I'm almost done planning my menu now, but I won't bore you with sharing everything we're eating for the next four to six weeks. I hope some of the ideas I've listed above might inspire you in your own menu-planning efforts. Happy planning and shopping!

1 comment:

  1. You know what, RK, usually when I hear "menu planning" my ears go over and I find someplace to hide.

    But this system isn't overwhelmingly detailed.

    Great ideas! And DITTO on the cereal!


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